Social media’s impact on the bottom line has convinced managers it needs to be integrated in the organisation’s business strategy. While this integration usually focuses on the upside of social media, how about trying to assess what could go wrong? Recent events in Australia might soon force managers all over the world to take notice.

The risk register is an organisation’s way of identifying and documenting the potential risks that cover all areas of the organisation that have the potential to:

  • Cause injury or ill health to individuals
  • Result in civil claims or litigation
  • Result in enforcement action
  • Cause damage to the environment
  • Cause property damage/loss
  • Result in operational delays
  • Result in the loss of reputation

Social media can cause both loss of reputation and now has the potential to result in enforcement action. Last week, the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau ruled that Facebook to be an advertising medium. As a Facebook page can be used to engage with customers, the board considered that the advertising code also applies to the content generated by the advertisers, as well as material or comments posted by users or friends. Organisations are fully responsible for ALL the content that appears on the Facebook Page. Australian businesses are now compelled by law to monitor the comments left on their Facebook pages. They will have to ensure that the material posted by the public isn’t of a sexist, factually inaccurate or racist nature.

According to experts, although at present the ruling only affects organisations in Australia, its impact has set a precedent for other advertising boards across the world.

The risks of using social media on behalf of the organisation need to be assessed, recorded and then plans put in place to manage them. Monitoring comments and posts on your Facebook pages or Youtube accounts has always been part of the job description of the person or team in charge of social media. The recent ruling and the future it foretells means it will force them to devote even more time to the process. Another issue organisations will have to consider has to do with what happens outside office hours. A brand’s fans on Facebook come from all time zones, and their posts on the organisation’s timeline will not respect the social media manager’s 9 to 5 schedule. How about posts made during week-ends? Will they be left around until someone comes to work on Monday?

If the loss of reputation was not enough to place social media on the risk register, this ruling means that Social Media now has to feature on the register as it can potentially result in enforcement.